Brisbane's job market facing 'something of a perfect storm' say experts, affecting prospects for finance professionals

Brisbane's job market facing 'something of a perfect storm' say experts, affecting prospects for finance professionals

By Tessa Bedford*

The slowdown in the mining industry and the decrease in the price of coal have significantly affected the Brisbane job market for finance professionals.

Coupled with job cuts in the public service, an improvement is not expected any time soon.

Compared with the first half of the year, there has been more movement of financial candidates, however, the recent news of mine closures and continued upheaval in the public sector are now taking their toll on financial recruitment.

“It is certainly a tough market at the moment, but there are some very specific reasons behind this,” says Darren Buchanan, director, Hays Queensland.

“We have had something of a perfect storm in the Queensland economy and are now facing challenges from two of the biggest employers in the financial space: mining and the public sector,” he says.  

Sinead Hourigan, director, Robert Walters Brisbane, thinks people also underestimated the effect of global economic turmoil on the Queensland economy, where many big resources projects have foreign financing and are controlled by head offices based overseas.

Last year was an unexpectedly buoyant one considering its dire start, and hiring was at reasonable levels across all sectors. However, Hourigan says this led to unreasonable expectations for 2012 and a correction was inevitable. “We have seen critical-business hiring only and almost no future-focused resourcing or recruitment strategies,” she adds.

Hiring hot spots

There has been an increase in contract recruitment, particularly in insurance, where firms are a lot more cost conscious than last year and are now insisting on fixed-term contracts.

There is still some demand for business-critical or revenue-generating roles such as auditors, financial planners, paraplanners, brokers or those involved in project work like business developers, analysts, or financial reporting. 

“There is a bit of an overlap between in-demand jobs and skill shortages,” says Buchanan, who believes that although the market is challenging, there are still opportunities.

“Activity in the resources sector may have slowed, but there will always be a need for finance professionals within the mining companies where accounting staff and credit controllers will always be in demand,” he adds.

As in other states, there has been an increase in financial professionals wanting to relocate to the corporate or resources sectors. Although the transition may not be easy, people with transferable skills are consistently in demand. 

Hourigan says that normally by this time of year there would be an upward shift in salaries of up to 10 per cent, but movement has been insignificant so far. However, this is not industry specific; even the supposed boom sectors like oil and gas have not seen any notable remuneration increases.

Forecast for the rest of the year

The banking sector has struggled in the wake of the GFC and the 2010-11 floods, and the Queensland economy hasn’t recovered at the same rate as some other states.

But there is still plenty to be optimistic about, says Buchanan.

“If the commodity prices improve and the mines step up production; if the state government starts spending money once it has completed its staff restructure programme, then confidence will return and Queensland will move forward.”

Hourigan believes we are unlikely to see any significant change in the job market this year but expects a pick-up in 2013.  Things may stabilise once the state government has settled in and we may have a clearer vision after the 2012-13 State Budget is handed down on 11 September.  Hourigan hopes that some pending government announcements about project spending in resources, construction and infrastructure may help revitalise the market.

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Tessa Bedford is Kiwi and a Sydney-based editor of eFinancialCareers.com  This story originally appeared at efinancialcareers.com.au and is used here with permission.

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